Bike Lanes – To Share Or Not To Share?

In my younger days, I enjoyed riding my bike around the Palos Verdes peninsula. My bicycle was a used green ten-speed and not anywhere near the technical complexity of today’s road bikes.

I would venture off from my parents’ house near Crestwood Avenue and make my way to 22nd St. and then head around the backside of the hill to Palos Verdes Dr. North then back home on Western Ave. On other occasions, I would tackle the switchbacks near Marymount College or ride through Miraleste Drive and then up Crest Rd. to the top of the hill to enjoy the view.

My most memorable bike ride was with my friend Todd Karli when we followed the Olympic torch back in 1984 for the Los Angeles summer games. We met at PCH and Western and followed the running of the torch up Crenshaw to Palos Verdes and down Hawthorne all the way to 190th and PCH before returning home. We experienced a little part of history that day.

Back then there were no bike lanes, although looking back it would have been nice to have had them, especially through the blind turns around the backside of Palos Verdes. Today, many cities across the country have made bike lanes an important part of the landscape and Los Angeles is no different. In fact, you can read the five-year bike lane plan for Los Angeles at the Department of City Planning website. The strategy is to lay down at least 200 miles of bike lanes every five years across Los Angeles to create a contiguous bike lane network. As part of the 2010 Bicycle Plan, 253 miles of bike lanes will be implemented at a cost projection of $27 Million, and San Pedro is right in the middle of it.

Recently, bike lanes have been implemented on Capitol and Westmont and have resulted in one of the biggest local protest in a long time. The story has lit up Facebook, been covered on the local TV news and in newspapers and local protests have been conducted on Westmont. Why? Is it because people in general do not like bike lanes? No, it’s because locals are frustrated because car lanes and left turn lanes have been eliminated and center dividers narrowed to put in these bike lanes.

The result has been longer commuting times bringing kids to and from Taper Ave., Dodson and Mary Star High School, as well as making it difficult to maneuver in and out of Ralphs and Albertsons parking lots during peak hours. Drivers are not only confused by the markings on Westmont that separate the bike and car lanes and where they can cross them when merging to make a right turn, but become so frustrated with waiting in traffic that they enter the bike lanes to bypass the traffic altogether. This has resulted in moving violations being issued. What remains to be seen are the wait times that may occur on Westmont and Gaffey St. during soccer season for families to arrive at the Field of Dreams, the impact when Ponte Vista is developed, or the delays on Gaffey now that the southbound lanes at the Channel St. intersection has been reduced to a single lane. Based on the protests, it remains to be seen if the current plan to change Pacific Ave into single car lanes to make room for bike lanes gets implemented.

One idea that may be considered to resolve the current and future bike lane dilemmas is to establish shared bike lanes similar to what has been done along 2nd St. in Belmont Shore. This type of lane requires an automobile to yield for bicyclists present in the lane otherwise autos are free to travel in the lane.

Although the bike plan was approved prior to Councilman Joe Buscaino being elected, he has been proactive in assessing the situation and getting feedback from residents and listening to business owners’ concerns in order to determine how to resolve this issue. What is also encouraging is the vocal and written outpouring by locals who are truly frustrated with the way this segment of bike lanes have been implemented and are determined to fix it. spt

Holy Trinity’s Eagles Have Landed

New Eagle Scouts (l to r): Brad Fistonich, Matt Yracheta and Austin Leavitt (photo: Anita Yracheta & Julio Lemus)

Brad Fistonich, Austin Leavitt and Matt Yracheta aren’t your typical high school seniors. In addition to balancing varsity football, heavy class loads and choosing between college acceptance letters, the 18-year-olds have spent ten years going camping, earning merit badges and moving up in the ranks of the Boy Scouts of America. Three months ago, all three became Eagle Scouts, the highest rank in scouting, and an honor earned by only 5 percent of scouts annually.

On March 9, Fistonich, Leavitt and Yracheta had their Eagle Scout Court of Honor at Holy Trinity Parish, where they are members of Troop 234, and are the 24th, 25th and 26th scouts in the history of the troop to make Eagle. Congresswoman Janice Hahn was on hand to present them with certificates of honor from President Barack Obama.

“I’m extremely proud of what Matt, Austin and Brad have accomplished; they are great scouts and excellent role models for San Pedro’s youth both in and out of scouting,” says Troop 234 Scoutmaster Dwayne Cooper. “One of the aims of scouting is to develop well-rounded young men who are prepared to give back to their community. Through the service they provided in their scouting career and especially their Eagle projects, they have already begun to give back.”

Although the teens began their paths to Eagle Scout in different troops and went to different high schools – Yracheta attends the San Pedro High School Marine Science Magnet, and Fistonich and Leavitt go to Mary Star of the Sea High School – the three have developed and maintained a tight bond strengthened by their shared experience of making Eagle Scout.

“Boy Scouts isn’t all fun and games; it’s serious stuff and in the end, it’s very rewarding,” says Fistonich, who started out as a Cub Scout at Holy Trinity before bridging over to the Boy Scouts, eventually becoming a Senior Patrol Leader. Of the 21 merit badges needed to become an Eagle Scout, his favorite was the Shotgun Merit Badge.

In addition to the merit badges, Eagle Scouts must plan, lead and oversee a volunteer service project. Fistonich organized a 40-volunteer effort to renovate the gardening center at Silver Spur Elementary School in Rancho Palos Verdes.

“The whole process was two days, but there were dozens of prep days, which were probably even harder than the actual work days,” he says.

Leavitt spent months planning his project last summer to clean up his school’s deteriorating shipping container-turned weight room. The swimmer and honor roll student oversaw almost 50 volunteers. During his scouting career, he earned the 60 Nights of Camping Badge and reached the highest rank at Chawanakee Summer Camp.

“It’s been a long journey and it’s really nice to be able to finish after 10 years,” he says. “As you move up in the ranks, you figure out what you want to do and how you’re going to lead and be an example to others.”

For his service project, Yracheta led a two-weekend effort to replenish emergency kits in classrooms at Holy Trinity School. He’s also participated in food drives and camped in all types of weather conditions, earning him the 20 Nights Camping award. A member of San Pedro High School’s 2011 Marine League Title-winning varsity football team, he likens scouting to sports.

“When my team went 10-0, it was just like Boy Scouts in that when it was tiring and we wanted to stop and go home, we just had to keep pushing and pushing and go for gold.”

All three teens thank their parents, families, friends and scoutmaster for supporting them through their journeys to Eagle. They have all received multiple acceptance letters from universities. Yracheta plans on attending Marymount College and ultimately UCLA, Leavitt plans on attending California State University Long Beach, and Fistonich is still deciding.

“I think the Boy Scouts has given my son confidence, maturity, and the ability to speak in front of lots of people,” says Brad’s mother, Sharon Fistonich. “I think it’s a great growing experience and I’m very proud. I know all three boys will be friends for life.”

Yaracheta and Leavitt have been scouts together since they were Cub Scouts at Taper Elementary School, where Austin’s father Cary Leavitt was a Den Leader.

“I think the Boy Scout experience gives young men the skills and confidence to succeed at anything they do in the future,” Cary Leavitt says. “At Holy Trinity’s Troop 234, Dwayne Cooper is the most patient and understanding leader.”

Yracheta’s mother Anita says her son and Leavitt have developed a strong bond during the past 10 years that hasn’t changed despite going to different high schools.

“Matt and Austin have been friends since second or third grade, and even though they went to different high schools, it never changed their friendship. The scouts have kept them connected,” she says. “To see them grow and mature into such nice young men has been great. I’m proud of all three to be able to have accomplished what they have.” spt

Path To Prosperity

Last month’s San Pedro Today article recalling the slaughter of the innocent and devout Eva Tice in downtown San Pedro made my blood boil once again. For it is the byproduct of a deepening (by the decades) of poverty, and the drug addiction, crime and violence that has become our harbor side reality.

This was not always our identity. In the first two-thirds of the last century, our waterline was our key to prosperity, for it offered a diversity of industrial and commercial economic opportunity from the Bridge to the Breakwater and beyond. We were busy working.

However, by offering no vision for the type of public use that creates the commercial growth that would ensure a bright future, the City of Los Angeles (who holds the reins) instead created a social service and industrial dumping ground in its own southern section and seaside soul. So, for well over half a century we have suffered with a well-earned dangerous and dead end image that headlines continue to shout.

Look in on all other west coast ports to observe commercial seaside commerce and abundant economic activity – regional prosperity. The cry in the Harbor Area must be for economic justice that overcomes the anomaly of our seaside poverty.

The surest path to community safety and the seaside promise of prosperity is the full development and complete transformation of the Los Angeles waterfront. Our prominent institutions: the hospitals, schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, Marymount College, and other such institutions, must be promoted and economically nurtured in strength in order to safeguard and serve our social wellness and welfare. The development of the waterfront, which started as the Bridge to the Breakwater Grande Promenade Plan fourteen years ago, is the key to the economic health of the entire Harbor Area.

Our main street areas have degenerated into swap meets. The few waterfront commercial businesses that currently exist only serve weekend crowds, and those crowds represent a limited demographic that does not circulate into downtown or spend a dime elsewhere. All of the businesses that do not cater to that limited demographic have died (Simon’s Banquet Center is a recent example), thus the emptiness throughout the area.

Shouldn’t the waterfront serve and benefit all? Shouldn’t it be open and connect to all? Aren’t we good enough to attract people from all over the world? As a great people attraction that included visits by presidents, celebrities, astronauts, generals, admirals and heads of state, the Papadakis Taverna, which started in an empty building on a very rough corner of downtown in the early 1970s, did. And it did it for nearly four decades. That is how Sixth St. between Centre and Mesa came alive with people places. Why can’t our waterfront become an infectious welcome beacon for everyone?

The waterline must serve as a doorstep to all. Our port becoming a statewide seaside destination will engender the commercial growth that has escaped us for decades. For it will attract the great diversity of people that comprise what we call Southern Californians – not to mention the millions of folks who visit annually, as tourism is L.A.’s biggest business. Finally, it will create a locally based business community with the blessing of a diversified and bona fide job market.

Our history is our waterline. Simply put, the path to prosperity begins at our waterline. The rocky, bloody path to poverty begins there as well, as we have observed. What we make of it now, and whom we make it for, will determine our future.

There are those who will deny what I have expressed here and fought for all these years. You will have to take a good look at them and ask yourself why. I looked through and past them long ago.

Here’s to a new year, a new urban waterfront mecca, a bustling, busy international city by the blue Pacific, and economic justice to the long-suffering people of the southern portion of Los Angeles. spt

John Papadakis was the owner of Papadakis Taverna and is founder of the Bridge to the Breakwater Plan.

Redeveloping Ports O’ Call

I know it sounds cliché, but where did the year go? As I reset my clock it seems like just yesterday I was turning it forward and getting ready for summer. Now the holidays are in full swing and before you know it will be summer again.

We have much to be thankful for during this holiday season in San Pedro and I would need more than just this column to describe all that is good with our town. It’s rare to find such a place like San Pedro with love and pride that goes well beyond words; it’s an emotion that flows through our veins.

On many occasions, I get asked about three particular subjects that spur emotion: Ports O’ Call, Ponte Vista and the Rancho San Pedro public housing projects. The future of the first two appears to have a tangible outcome whereas the third is uncertain. Ponte Vista with its new plans for a smaller foot print and adjusted turn lanes to mitigate traffic on Western may yield support from the original massive planned development once proposed, and the process held by the Port of Los Angeles to solicit a developer for much needed change at Port’s O’ Call is well underway.

Ports O’ Call development is the moment San Pedro has been waiting for and by the end of this year eight prospective developers will be whittled down to one to determine its future. Today, although the parking lots are packed every weekend at Ports O’ Call, it is rare that you will find many locals there unless a wedding or baby shower is being held. Since the taking down of the space needle to the closure of many of the small businesses that truly made Port’s O’ Call the place to be back in the 60s and 70s, the very mention of it is always followed with fond memories and a cautious optimism about its future. As I see it, it’s time to create a new Port’s O’ Call that will not only provide new memories for our generation, but for our children and grandchildren’s generation, as well. So the real question is what will make locals and tourists alike want to go to Ports O’ Call on any given day of the week?

A new Port’s O’ Call must reflect who we are locally and where we have come from internationally. It must incorporate ideas from successful developments that attract us throughout the year such as L.A. Live, The Grove, Third Street Promenade and The Block, to name a few. I believe anchor establishments such as a Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, BJ’s and Starbucks tied in with our historic Fish Market, Ports O’ Call Restaurant, Acapulco Restaurant and other successful establishments that have kept Ports O’ Call alive is the recipe for success. An added attraction like a concert hall should be considered as well as a convention center. Today, many of our local non-profits have to hold their annual fundraisers in Manhattan Beach, Torrance and Long Beach because San Pedro does not have a facility that can accommodate over 500 guests. A convention center that can accommodate such events must be part of the plan. In a nutshell, Port’s O’ Call must have the very amenities we seek in other cities in order to draw locals and tourists everyday of the week.

We must continue the momentum of moving our waterfront and town forward. We have seen the recent arrival of the USS Iowa and Crafted, Marymount College establishing roots on 6th street, downtown San Pedro being infused with new events and street lighting by the PBID, a marine research center in the works for City Dock #1, new schools have been built and much more is on the horizon. San Pedro is truly on the rise.

Our time has come to transition Port’s O’ Call into something that we can once again be proud of and transform it into an international attraction once again. The development of Ports O’ Call is the true catalyst that will breathe real life into our waterfront development efforts for generations to come. spt